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Pregnancy Massage: Therapeutic Benefits & Urban Myths

Few people deserve a massage more than a mommy-to-be. Expecting a child is wonderful, but a mother’s body, mind and life must transform to adapt to the baby she carries. Pregnancy massage is a safe, trusted therapy that can be instrumental in supporting a mother’s overall well-being throughout the entire pregnancy.

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What Is Pregnancy Massage?

Pregnancy or prenatal massage is an adaptive form of Swedish and deep tissue massage. It uses different positioning to ensure the mother’s comfort and routine massage techniques on most of the body. Light, soothing touch is used on the abdomen, and special considerations are made for concerns like edema and circulation.

Pregnancy massage can either be part of a massage therapist’s routine toolkit or a specialty. Basic training prepares a therapist for positioning their clients with pregnancy massage pillows, navigating potential contraindications, and otherwise monitoring a mother’s safety and comfort. It prepares therapists with any type of practice for the day when an expecting mother walks in their door.

Specialized pregnancy massage therapists receive extensive training in all phases of pregnancy. Their skill and experience ranges from couples trying to get pregnant to post-patrum recovery. These massage therapists may have pregnancy massage tables contoured to fit a mother’s body. Many are trained to encourage bonding between a mother and child and may teach self-care techniques to clients. They can be present during births and be an essential pillar of a mother’s pre-, peri- and post-natal complementary therapies.

Benefits of Pregnancy Massage

An expecting mother’s body and brain chemistry undergo dramatic changes. Just carrying the weight of another life with her can be physically and emotionally taxing. The gentle touch that pregnancy massage therapists provide offer wonderful support for moms-to-be.

Key benefits of pregnancy massage include:

  • Easing aches, pains, stiffness and muscle cramps
  • Helping alleviate edema in lower extremities
  • Helping maintain good posture
  • Helping alleviate fatigue
  • Promoting more restful sleep
  • Assisting in the stabilization of hormone levels for improved moods
  • Improving circulation for both mother and child
  • Promoting relaxation and stress relief
  • Pre-conception support for relaxation and anxiety relief
  • Perinatal support to assist pain and stress relief during labor
  • Post-partum support for mood stability and muscle tone recovery

Pregnancy Massage Misconceptions

When it comes to the safety of an unborn child, it is natural for massage therapists and expecting mothers to err on the side of caution. Unfortunately, that sense of caution has perpetuated some stubborn myths about the safety of massage during pregnancy. A simple Google search will turn up a maelstrom of warnings and opinions that can scare expecting mothers away from pregnancy massage.

  1. One of the most common myths is that foot massage can induce labor. This belief stems from Traditional Chinese Medicine energy mapping. There are points on the foot and ankle that correspond to the female reproductive system, and pressing on them is believed to stimulate energy in the area. Studies have utterly debunked the notion that massaging these areas could induce labor. In one of the largest studies, 221 overdue women had these energy points poked and prodded every other day for a week with no results.
  2. Another misguided belief is that massage during the first trimester could cause a miscarriage. Some massage therapists encounter this myth as early as massage school. Massage is safe during any stage of pregnancy. According to the Mayo Clinic, 20% of known pregnancies end in miscarriage. Most of them occur because the fetus is not developing normally, and many others occur due to illness. Light abdominal touch and increased circulation from massage has never been linked to miscarriage. In fact, massage and exercise have a similar effect on the body, and most women are encouraged to exercise throughout their pregnancy.

While there are plenty of myths, there are true pregnancy massage contraindications. Massage therapists have to be wary of concerns like blood clots, lymphedema, and the effects of gestational diabetes. Pressure on the abdomen is typically limited to light touch. Pregnancy massage classes prepare therapists for what questions to ask, what areas to avoid, and what to look out for.

Pregnancy Massage Courses

Having a pregnancy massage certification gives your clients peace of mind and can help define your practice’s specialties. In pregnancy massage courses, you can expect a detailed look into the ways a woman’s body changes during pregnancy. You’ll learn about complications, contraindications, and how to adapt your pregnancy massage techniques for different stages of pregnancy. Some courses will include information on facilitating early bonding between the mother and child, post-partum massage, and even working perinatal as part of a holistic delivery.

Pregnancy massage courses vary widely in complexity. A 1-8 CEU introductory course is an excellent choice for any massage therapist looking for a well-rounded education. Specialized training ranges from 12 to over 30 credit hours. You can also find courses in adapting specific modalities, like Thai massage and manual lymph drainage, for prenatal work.

Wanting to ease the physical and emotional stress of a mother-to-be can be an instinctual urge, and it makes prenatal massage a deeply gratifying experience. Thorough training will make sure you’re prepared to provide a comfortable, nurturing session.

 


 

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